When the Soviet army advanced against the Germans in the Second World War, Marshal Josef Broz Tito the Yugoslav leader complained to Stalin that the Russian army was raping and keeping many girls for sexual pleasure in its bunkers. Stalin had reportedly said that a soldier in the heat of battle must be given some leeway to "Fool" around with some girls. This about sums up the approach of the army towards women.

In my time in the armed forces, numerous incidents came where soldiers and officers had raped. There is now another phenomenon that has emerged. With the induction of women in the armed forces even as combatants, many incidents have come to the fore of sexual exploitation of younger girl soldiers and officers.Not all are rapes but in quite a few it's consensual as well, Never the less it is exploitation.

Sexual exploitation

The armed forces, unlike any other service, has a strict hierarchical structure where the superior is almost akin to god and his orders are to be obeyed. In such a situation a girl working under a superior is bound to obey his command. Failure to do this can lead to an offense under the army or AF act classified as " Act Prejudicial to good order and discipline". In the AF Act 1950 Section 65 deals with "crime". This leads to a piquant situation where a younger women combatant could have to obey her senior and work at lonely places with him or under his tutelage even at a base. This leads to love and sex and though many times it is consensual, yet in 60% of the cases, it is exploitation. We had the famous case of Captain Anjali of the Indian army committing suicide as she loved a group captain and he was double her age and married her with a son older than her. Yet the poor girl unable to marry the senior officer hung herself in Bhopal.

Women in history have always been part of the army. When the Roman legions marched they took with them many women as camp followers whose sole purpose was to gratify the carnal desire of the soldiers. this never changed throughout history and in World war II the Imperial army recruited " comfort women" to assuage the heat of battle for their soldiers. This was wrong and after the war, many lawsuits were filed and the Japanese government did pay compensation to the women mostly from Korea who was used as comfort women.

Last year the US army has paid compensation in Hawaii to civilian women who worked with the US army and were sexually exploited. Obviously, the army would not have paid if there was no smoke. Thus one can say that this sexual exploitation is universal.

Moral dilemma

Is this exploitation wrong or right? If one goes by the moral code one can safely say it is wrong, but again it is a phenomenon that is ongoing for over 3000 years. No army marched without women or capturing women as "war booty". In ancient times there was no law against it and warriors like Taimur and Chenghiz Khan followed their own rules which said:" women are war booty and fair game". Sadly it continued in WWII which is not far back. With the advent of modern jurisprudence and the principle of natural justice as well as women's rights the laws have been framed to make offenses against women a crime. A soldier committing an act of rape against civilian girl also cannot be tried under military law and has to be tried only in a civil court. These are the exceptions in the code on " concurrent jurisdiction". 

Last word

Despite the passage of such statutes, the offenses against women have not decreased. One, of course, cannot justify such acts but the fact remains that such acts can never end. So long as women have an attraction for men, one can pass any umber of laws but a man in uniform will get the benefit of doubt in such cases of rape or sexual exploitation. I suppose one has to live with it.


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